One thing I have learned testing electric cars is that the decision to buy is far more complex than buying a petrol or diesel.
So many people tell me they are not ready to take the plunge, not because they don’t like the cars, but because of the uncertainty about coping with a long journey and the cost, 30 grand is about the least you will get away with.
Planning a long trip can give you the jitters and there will be times when having to top up between journeys will cause delays but we have still got eight years to get the charging situation right and having driven two electric cars in quick succession I am warming to them.
The Volvo XC 40 reviewed a couple of weeks ago was a fine, if expensive, example of electric power so how does the Q4 e-tron measure up?
This is Audi’s first electric SUV and joins e-tron and e-tron GT and is a direct rival to the Volvo in size and price, both offering all wheel options. Like the all wheel drive Swede the quattro Q4 gets its power from two electric motors, one on each axle pumping out a hefty 293bhp, a good bit less than the Volvo but enough to make it a very swift mover.
The four model range offers three power outputs from either a 55 or 77kWh battery pack so for the most miles look to the rear wheel drive, single motor Q4 40 which could take you 316 miles on a single charge, In reality you would be looking to top up after 200 miles to avoid range anxiety, the new buzz phrase for electric driving.
With my Mr Sensible right foot on the throttle my Q4 50 did rather well, returning around 270 miles of range, 20 short of the official maximum. The computer showed 3.7miles per kWh which in a petrol car would break 100mpg. Anything over three is economic driving and braking into 4 miles per kWh is economy gold.
A home charger gives a full top up overnight, don’t be making do with a three pin plug charge as it takes forever. Find the right charger while travelling and just over 30 minutes will top up to 80 per cent. Q4 can cope with a 125kWh fast charge which will put 80 miles on in just 10 minutes.
To recoup power Q4 has a permanent brake gear, supported by steering wheel paddles which give three levels of braking, but neither is a match for Volvo’s innovative one pedal system which can slow and stop the car without touching the brake at the same time regenerating the batteries.
There is no compromise on quality with Audi and Q4 is trimmed to perfection. The digital driver’s display with Google mapping is not changed but the rest of the dashboard is new with an updated 11.6in touchscreen. It is effective but I prefer to old system with a rotary controller between the seats which is less distracting for the driver and more user friendly. At least the voice control did what it was asked on most occasions.
Audi has always worked on the basis that buyers like to choose their own spec and my S-Line, one above base, came with £10,000 of extras which covered the new multi media screen and a host of safety features. Strangely a reversing camera is not part of standard equipment but I think most drivers would happily swap the power tailgate to see where they are reversing.
So is it the Audi or Volvo? Both are sophisticated, high quality examples of this brave new electric world and here the margins are so tight. I would be happy with either, the Audi S-Line has sharper handling and is more settled on tardy tarmac while the Volvo’s seats are still the best on the planet and one pedal is brilliant, I’m surprised Audi hasn’t come up with its own version.
But even though the Volvo offers more standard equipment I am going for the Audi because I love the way it drives and, crucially, it has more electric range.
What the wife says.
I don’t have to think about it, just give me the Volvo. One pedal technology, more comfortable seats and a beautiful dashboard. And I couldn’t spot any difference in the handling.
Q4 e-tron 50 S-Line quattro
£54,545 Tested £65,065
Range starts £40,750
0-62mph 6.2secs; 111.8mph
Range 290 miles
Insurance group 37
Boot: 520-1490 litres